FLOWERY BRANCH — It was two months ago when former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley said, “I have all the confidence in the world that I can start in this league and play for many years.” He’ll need that confidence if he hopes to continue playing football. But you only get so long to prove it in the NFL.
It was clear after his fourth preseason in Atlanta that Shockley did not have a future with the Falcons. Whether he has a future in pros at all remains to be seen.
The quarterback who waited his turn behind David Greene at Georgia and then led the Bulldogs to the Sugar Bowl was released by the Falcons for the second time in a month Wednesday. This time carries a sense of more permanence.
Young backup quarterbacks don’t get a long lifeline in the NFL, unless their contract mandates it. Shockley’s didn’t, and he got a longer lifeline than most. When he was beat out by Alabama’s John Parker Wilson for the No. 3 job in the preseason, it sent a strong message about how the organization viewed him. Shockley was cut Sept. 5 and brought back a day later for the practice squad. Every general manager has had a shot at him for six weeks. Nobody has bit.
With injuries at running back now piling up, the Falcons needed a safety net at that position more than they needed Shockley. So they the signed Antone Smith for the practice squad. Shockley was gone.
Anybody who has met Shockley knows he’s a good kid. Anybody who saw him wait his turn in Athens knows about his mental toughness and his leadership abilities. But the NFL can be a harsh reality. Bottom line: He just hasn’t been good enough.
When I talked to him in training camp, Shockley said, “What I went through in Athens helped me in terms of how to handle things, mentally and physically. The biggest thing is patience. You can’t worry about things you can’t control. That’s just something I’ve learned over the years.”
Now it might be time to reassess career goals.